Can a cheap 767-300ER replace the 757W?

As some customers press Airbus and Boeing for a replacement for the Boeing 757-200W used on selected trans-Atlantic, long-thin routes, Flightglobal floated a suggestion that that the Boeing 767-300ER might be a possible replacement.

The last passenger 767 was delivered this month. The line remains open with the 767-300ERF and the early stages of the USAF KC-46A tanker. A cut-price 763ER might be cheap enough to offset the operating cost disadvantage, or so the theory goes.

The 763ER is the right size in a three-class configuration—218 seats–and will be in production for many years to come due to the KC46 production line. We know Boeing sold the 763ER for a very low price in connection with compensation for the 787 delays, and we know that at a very low price, the 763ER economics do match the 787’s operating costs. But how does this stack up against the 757 in Flightglobal’s hypothesis?

Not very well. We did a quick economical analysis with our proprietary model.

We took the 767-300ERW (W for winglet) and compared it to the 757-200ERW and 757-300ERW. We also added the Airbus A321neo and Boeing 737-9 MAX to check where the modern benchmark is when the missions are within their capability.

To make an apples-to-apples comparison, we flew a 3600nm mission which is at the range limit for all except the 757-200ERW (4100nm) and 767-300ERW (6100nm). We equipped all aircraft with a normalized 2 class cabin with business lie-flat seats at 60” pitch (4 abreast B/E Aerospace Diamond for all except 767 where we use 5 abreast) and then economy at 32” pitch using Zodiac 5751. The normalized cabins turned out as follows; 752 24J:140Y, 753 28J:162Y, 767 32J:191Y, 739 22J:123Y, 321 24J:137Y

767_3 28 05 2014

The exercise was sobering. Compared to our benchmark, the 757-200, the 767 consumes 3.4% more fuel per seat in addition to having higher capital and maintenance costs. The upgraded A321neo and 737-9 MAX have ~20% lower per seat fuel cost than our benchmark. Add to that lower maintenance and capital costs and one realizes that a dual aisle long range aircraft like the 767 shall remain just that, a long range dual aisle aircraft enjoying applications where it can still fill a role.

For missions where the 737-9MAX and A321neo do not have the range, we need something new. Until then the 757-200ERW will have to soldier on.

Just to put the comparison range in perspective, 3600nm is OK for West Europe to the New York area but not much further south or west, and that is only if there are no strong winds. Here the distances to the New York area from some well known European hubs (Courtesy Great Circle Mapper):

From To Initial
Heading Distance
EWR (40°41’33″N 74°10’07″W) CPH (55°37’05″N 12°39’21″E) 43.0° (NE) 3361 nm
EWR (40°41’33″N 74°10’07″W) FRA (50°01’35″N 8°32’35″E) 50.4° (NE) 3362 nm
EWR (40°41’33″N 74°10’07″W) STO (59°20’N 18°03’E) 37.5° (NE) 3427 nm
EWR (40°41’33″N 74°10’07″W) CDG (49°00’35″N 2°32’52″E) 53.4° (NE) 3171 nm
EWR (40°41’33″N 74°10’07″W) TLS (43°38’06″N 1°22’04″E) 60.0° (NE) 3254 nm
EWR (40°41’33″N 74°10’07″W) BCN (41°17’49″N 2°04’42″E) 62.2° (NE) 3344 nm

Given prevailing westerly winds and heavier cabins, catering etc we really need 4000nm+ range to operate TransAtlantic flights reliably. Therefore the airlines will continue to use the 752 and there is a need for a true 757 replacement.

By Leeham Co EU

58 Comments on “Can a cheap 767-300ER replace the 757W?

  1. Solid comparison, well done.

    To the “defense” of the 767 it could be mentioned that:

    – it can carry substantial revenue cargo loads on 3500-4000 NM missions and for shorter flights,
    – a new 15% more fuel efficient engine would be included, e.g. GENX.
    – 8 abreast could be considered in combination with e.g. new side panels. Increasing the 767 revenue potential.

    • Indeed the 8 abreast would be something worth considering. It’s horribly narrow (saw one on an Italian Airforce B767) but those who don’t mind flying transatlantic in a single-aisle might accept the dense TA as well 😉

      I’d oppose on the new engine. Fitting new engines doesn’t match the initial scenario: Build CHEAP pax 767s on the KC46/767ERF line. Those don’t feature a new engine, hence fitting it to the pax version would mean additional development cost versus “just” keeping the legacy 767 line open.
      That put aside, would it make sense? The GenX1B is a higher-thrust engine, so take the 2B (which is not as good in sfc)? Still ~7% too high thrust, but derating helps maintenance cost. Fan dia would fit I guess (108in vs ~93in on a PW4062). Engine weight is ~25-30% up, which would eat some tons from the payload advantage. Including the higher-drag nacelles it might end up hardly beyond 10% advantage. This would put the bird below the 757 on the above graph – but you’d have to harvest the ~$500mio-$1000mio development cost until it’d pay off for Boeing. And it would still be worse than NEO & MAX.

      As for the cargo I doubt this might change the business case.

  2. Hello Scott
    Very Nice
    Why are you using “typical” pax count for A321 and 737-9 on the chart and not tjhe normalized pax count ? A321NEO is 161 PAX normalized and not 185.


    • I think Leehams approach to fit in real seats with real pitches and class split ups instead of the different, “optimized” numbers OEMS communicate is far more realistic.

      • Scott
        You also need to correct the table
        Seat mile fuel cost are also wrong
        For A321NEO it shoud be 5.09/161 = 0.0316, ie “only” 20% less than 757-200
        Idem for 737-9

        It doesn’t change the outcome

        Airbus said a while ago that the seat mile cost of an A321 (and i say the same for 737-900R) is better than the seat mile cost of an 787…
        Small is beautiful

  3. Nice analysis, very useful numbers!

    You linked the AIAA paper regarding twin aisle versus single aisle recently. In conclusion it says a similar thing: twin aisle not good unless optimized for that purpose. The only option I see is a higher seat count, cashing out the advantage the twin aisle has in terms of lifting capability.
    The B767 performs especially bad, even compared to the B757 when normalized to realistic seat counts. Guess why the B767-200 is dead.

    With 24J@60inch and Y@32inch you give the single aisle a slight advantage as it has plenty of remaining payload available (which it needs as it is maxed out for a 3600nm mission). Lie flat on transatlantic isn’t strictly necessary. An alternative business model with a 35-40inch premium economy and a 31inch economy may house up to 260 seats in the B767-300.

    But then why don’t you lease an A330 or B787 and pack another 30-60 people?
    The B767 may be a enabler for low cost long range business models, but then rather used than new build.

  4. “For missions where the 737-9MAX and A321neo do not have the range, we need something new. Until then the 757-200ERW will have to soldier on.”

    Scott, put 35,000 lbs of thrust RR UltraFan and upgraded PW1100G-JM engines on the A321neo in, say, 2025 and you’ve got your 4000 nm capable A321neo. I’m not sure about GE, though. Where would they find another 10 percent increase in efficiency on the LEAP-X platform?

      • Well, I’m not sure if GE/CFM could readily put a geared fan on the LEAP-X, an engine they’ve sunk significant resources into and which they’re apparently counting on will represent a large percentage of their revenue for the next 20 years, or so. In contrast, the PW1100G-JM engine has a clear upgrade path while RR can put a lot of resources in to developing the UltraFan engine as they haven’t spent their capital and resources into something that hasn’t got a clear upgrade path. So yes, GE/CFM could, of course, develop a GTF, but they would very likely have to start from “scratch” and say goodbye to a significant chunk of the revenue that the LEAP-X is supposed to generate.

        • CFM could use the LEAP core and build a new low spool with a gear around that. They could have to change the design of the bearing chambers, but they can use the gaspath and air foils of the existing core.

        • “CFM could use the LEAP core and build a new low spool with a gear around that.”

          They could, but that wouldn’t be a LEAP-X engine and I’m not sure if that’s a very optimum solution. The trend in engine design is to 1.), improve the thermal efficiency by shriningk the cores of the engines (i.e. increasing the overall pressure ratio etc.), and 2.), to increase the propulsive efficiency (i.e increasing fan diameter and bypass ratio etc.) So, if that’s indeed the trend, wouldn’t the LEAP-X core be too big compared to the all new one from RR? On the UltraFan RR is aiming for an overall pressure ratio of 70:1 and a bypass ratio of 15:1. (i.e. 40:1 and 11:1, respectively, on the LEAP-1A engine).

        • “CFM could use the LEAP core and build a new low spool with a gear around that.”

          Pratt tried something similar with the PW8000, a GTF using the PW6000 core. Not sure why they didn’t follow up on it after spending 10 years and $350 million on it.

        • I am not sure the UltraFan concept will work for a narrowbody engine – here is why:

          As for the PW8000 not being built from the PW6000 core: the PW6000 core was optimized for maintenance costs, thus not for fuel burn. Actually a GTF with the PW6000 core was build: the GTF Demonstrator. Due to the lower overall pressure ratio that engine would not be competitive with the LEAP and a competely new core was needed.

        • 2025 timeframe should be quite right for an UltraFan with an intercooler where the bypass duct air provides the heat sink. Sure, it’ll add some weight, but remember; the core should be smaller and lighter as well. It’s quite obvious IMJ that RR is aiming the inital version of the UltraFan squarely at the single aisle market..

      • Call it a one trick pony, but it will be very difficult to incorporate GTF technology into the LEAP-X architecture without starting from scratch. However, the technologies developed for the LEAP-X can be adapted to the GTF more readily.

        And I think RR is fortunate to have enough time and resources to start working on their own GTF from scratch.

        • A one trick pony, indeed.

          I was a pretty shrewd move IMO by RR to let Pratt & Whitney purchase their share of IAE and then, ending the joint venture with PW for next generation narrow-body engines as well. Clearly, RR’s intent is to return to the single-aisle market “with conviction.”

        • RR’s UltraFan is a very ambitious melange of the best technologies from all OEMs. GE’s composite fan and casing, ceramics, Pratt’s GTF, and RR’s own innovation, the variable pitch fan system that does away with the reverse thruster. It’s a technological marvel.

  5. It seems the airlines are not interested in a B-767NG, so that only leaves the current B-767-300ER(WL). But that does not mean Boeing could produce numbers for a NG model, with new engines, like the GEnx-2B, or a bleed-air version of the RR Trent-1000, aerodynamic improvements (a-la B-737-9MAX or A-321NEO). Fuel burn reduction could be in the 15%-18% range over the current B-767-300ER.
    That could mean putting less fuel aboard for the mission (reducing to overall weight and further reducing fuel burn), or putting more cargo aboard, increasing revenue.

      • sadly, no. if you look at the KC-46, the baseline aircraft is not even the wingletted version, and uses the old, proven, thirsty but reliable P&W 4062, and far from lightening it up for efficiency, they are reinforcing it for high loads and high durability.

        despite Airbus propaganda, not all US Defense spending is directly sponsoring commercial tech development (although a lot of it does).

        • Well, the original lease deal for 100 Boeing tanker was exactly that: a direct sponsoring of a US company.

    • 15-18% improvement, should come within about 5-8% of the 787, something we’ve heard the A330neo can’t do, so I doubt it’s coming that close, I’d say 10-12% at best.

        • Firstly – how you’re going to get 15% out of a 767W would be interesting to see.

          But anyway – all of that gets us back to a question that, when previously debated, led to comments being closed.
          That question being: How, using the same-generation engine technology, is a 767MAX/767NG going to be better than an A330neo, if the 767 is handily beaten by the A330ceo.

          Unless there’s significant investment into the airframe, I don’t see how Boeing could get a 767MAX/NG to even come close to the A330neo.

          Proof is in the pudding – there have been a few vocal airline propoments of an A330neo (and they started being vocal way before Airbus ever mentioned the concept), while nobody so far (other than people commenting here and on has publicly asked for a 767MAX/NG.

  6. The issues of the B767 cannot be solved by simply a new engine. The aircraft is conceptionally dead.

    • With new engines, the 767NG would have the low end of the widebody range covered, 200 plus seats, a 5000 mile range and a low acquisition cost. No composites or radical changes can keep the R&D costs down and since the line is open, the plane can be discounted enough to gain some orders and offer an option for airlines considering the A330. I don;t feel the 767 concept is dead, it just needs an updating as was done with the 737MAX, 2000 orders and counting.

      • As we have seen, the the second to largest 767 is around the size of the 787-8 and from the trend we have seen in the past few years, the orders for the-8 have stagnated while it’s the -9 that is getting orders now, which does show that, airlines don’t really want planes that size anymore. I’d vouch that very soon, the A330-200 will probably become the smallest plane in that size class, so no a re-engine would not do anything for the 767, they could try re-engining the 767-400, but considering that was well beaten by the A330-200/300, that’d probably just repeat itself again with the A330neo, so I’d say the 767 is pretty dead.

        • I would not expect a large number of frames to be sold, but with the line open making the tankers, it would keep some airlines in the Boeing camp at a very low cost and would make the selling price attractive.

      • …and the pax backlog now at 0, with no new orders in over 2 years.
        In its current form & shape, the 767 as a pax plane is dead. The line will soldier on on freighters and the KC-46 from here on.

  7. The B767’s cross section is inherently inefficient: 7 seats abreast is less efficient than 8 or 9 as the unproductive aisle width is the same for all, but divided over less seats. The cargo hold of the B767 is too large for baggage but too small for real revenue cargo. Hence, the B767 is the least efficient widebody fuselage out there. added to this is an low aspect ratio wing with 1970ies high lift systems, giving it a glide ratio 10-20% worse than that of the A330.

    A B767-sized aircraft at medium ranges might work, but the B767 itself doesn’t.

    An NG-NEO version would never become as good as an A321-NEO over 2000nm or a B787 over 5000nm. And probably worse than a A330-NEO on any distance.

    • Yes, I think the wing, the baggage lobe, heavy materials, and non fly by wire are enough to make its passenger run done.

  8. The heavy iron-ball of a non-interlinable LD2 container system will remain chained to the 767’s ankle … an Achilles’ heel ? Logisticians are uneager to face routinary restowings L2 LD3 ? A WB hinch-foot, not accepting standardized freight, is disqualified, or is severily penalised, de-optimised if loading 1 LD3 for each two LD2 positions ? Handling agents or airport Docker Unions could boycott the 767 ?

    • FT, would it be possible to redesign the 767 cargo load system to take LD3-45’s. Not optimal from a volume perspective but superior to 737 and 757 and far more compatible.. Pallets count still be build up to 64 inch if used on 767s..

      • But you still have the weight penalty of a wide body cargo hold (which is substantial). You could shave off nearly 1m of vertical height of the B767 (the fuselage height is 5.41m) and .1-.2m in width, and still have an 18inch 7-abreast widebody. That is, the B767 is 25% larger in frontal area than required.

        Any “medium range widebody” needs to be designed to the standards of a single aisle, not of a long range aircraft. You need to “grow up” and not “shrink down”.

        The A330 can compensate slightly better due to size, but still it is inferior to any single aisle on a per seat basis, even when fully packed with people.

      • You can put one LD3 (159 cuft) into the space intended for two LD2 side-by-side (2 x 124 cuft = 248 cuft) in the 767 … you lose 159/248 = 36 %. You can put two LD2 side-by-side (248 cuft) into the space intended for two LD3 side-by-side (2 x 159 = 318 cuft), you lose 248/318 = 22 %. I don’t know about lashing. The real problem is circulation of LD2 containers nobody wants into their aircraft … You can cut down the LD2-64 to make an LD2-45, you lose 41 cuft, to 124 – 41 = 83 cuft, compared with LD3-45 (110 cuft) or LD3-45W (127 cuft), you lose 24 % (resp 35 %). Tough luck ! And I repeat : I don’t really know about lashing ??

        • Thruth volume is lost when LD3-45 on 767. But: far superior to the 737 and 757, compatible and a 767 can move high loads accross 4000NM, while the NB’s can not.

  9. What is the best aircraft to replace a 757?
    What about a 757?
    A huge fleet of 737-9MAX or A321NEO will free a huge amount of 757 for the small sector only a 757 can reach. This reserve fleet can bridge the gap until a 737MAX2 or an A321NEO2 is available to close the gap.

    • An A320 fuselage with a new wing featuring a 150-180sqm of wing area, a span of ~45m, made of composites, new landing gears, and a 2020 GTF engine of ~35-40klbf. Fuselage length 45m (A321 length) and 55m.

    • Correct strategy, mhalblaub ! Remove 757 from wherever “underused”, replace by perfect fit 739/A321, full-revamp your 757 (refurbish + retrofit new engines + retrofit winglets + D-check) then re-apply your “as-good-as-new” revamped 757 on routes where only a 757 can do the job properly. You’re buying yourself a reasonable lifeline to NFB (New Feeder, Boeing – post 2025 ?), high ROIC, low risk. For the cabin refurbish, preferably select the H52QR interior = a kick in the anthill !

    • Many 757 are very high in hours and cycles. Growing cracks in places you don’t want them. The technology level of most parts, materials and structures is 35 years old today and 45 yrs old in 10 years. Its heavy and absolesence is around the corner. Changing that is building something new. Regarding the 767, add 35 seats, cargo revenue (it aint volume only, tonnes too) and 15% better sfc to get realistic CASM.

      • Do the math and find out you’re wrong. In the given example – even assuming that 15% better SFC translates into 15% lower fuel burn, the B767 would be 5-10% above NEOed single aisles. Add inherently higher cost due to higher weight per seat, higher maintenance cost, lower absolute number of cycles and realistic numbers for fuel burn through new engines, you are at 10-15% worse CASM (optimistic!). You cannot compensate that through added seats, especially as Scott has compared it to very lightly packed single aisles.

        It is dead. Stop this NG-NEO non sense.

      • Schorsch, looking at the numbers, an A330R is dead too. Still… Raw capacity and slots can overrule CASM.

      • A D-checked 757 is an “as good as new” aircraft, that is : if properly, professionnally executed … it may cost 15 – 20 M$, but when completed, your aircraft is good (really !) for another 12-15 years … throw in 6 M$ for the winglets, 18 for the new engines and 10 for the cabin (group prices, for a 300 units revamp batch chain ?) and for +/- 50 M$ apiece you have a very special vector, dedicated for 220 seats, 4,200 nm applications … the best ROIC project l can think of these days, keesje and Schorsch …

  10. Icelandair is using 20 757-200 and 1 757-300 on their flights. They own about three to five B767-300ER and tried to use them along with the B757 on the longer routes, also opening routes too long for the B757.
    The B767 was more expensive per seat and it was difficult to fill the extra seats. Cutting down on frequency will kill the route.
    All of the B767 are now on wet lease or charter to other airlines.

  11. Aircraft performance data is like a car with one tires, it needs all 4 tires to work

    Rounding out the balance would be, what are the current actual flights between the points listed? I.e. lovely data but if there are not enough points on the planet like that with flights (or potential flights) then no one can afford to build an aircraft that there is only a need for 200.

    What are people paying for those flights?

    What is the cost of a new aircraft? and how many do you think you can sell at that price, not what you can get a used 757 for.

    Are there other markets for it or is that it?

    Aircraft use is a tricky balance within a system, or there has to be enough specific destinations of the same type within the airlines structure that you can shift them back and forth.

    The only one off I know of is Korean Air with a single 787-8. I suspect they have a very specif route in mind for it, they will fly it de-fueled domestically and it gets them a leg up on the 787-9s they are acquiring (pilot training and mechanics so they can hit the ground running while working on a single route)

    There has to be a large enough need that a dedicated aircraft can sell enough to serve it, or a variation of a 737RS could have a model to do so, but the spread gets pretty wide range wise and you may have break point it does not work.

    Nor enough market for a dedicated and you just do without or you can charge enough to make a mis-fit work.

    I do not think so, the 737RS will shrink it more, but not close it and I do not see a 10 billion + program for just that segment that is nipped on from both ends by current 737/A320 and the 787 (closest might be the 787-3 or a variation resurrected

    With a lot of work a 767 and new engines and wing, lightened fuselage but then it has nothing in common with current and you get into big bucks.

  12. Seeing that sobering chart and reading the analysis it seems like its easier to attack the 757 problem with a 787-7 than a warmed over 767. The 787-7 would build on the 787 weight reduction program and would both provide for further lighter weight -8, -9, -10s and be a proof of concept for the upcoming 737 replacement.

    My non-engineer gut belief is that the 787 is still built too much like an aluminum airplane and doesn’t take full advantage of CF. One advantage of CF, as I see it, is the ability to autoclave lighter parts mid-production which provides the knock-on effects of allowing further weight reductions as the lighter parts stress the air frame less. With experience into the learning curve and aggressive weight reduction, the 1000th 787 will be a totally different (lighter) airplane than the first with the same silhouette and perhaps even the same engines.

    It also seems that Boeing already tried to sell the USAF on an updated 767 air frame that would keep the 767 relevant as a pax plane and the air force passed on it choosing the A-330 in the initial tanker bidding. In the second competition, Boeing went after bare bones cost in order to win the contract. I don’t see it as likely that the air force will be willing to split the cost of developing a 767MAX with the airlines after they already passed on the idea and when the budgetary environment is more challenging now.

    Just like the air force passed on the 767 in the 1990s choosing second-hand 707 airliners with limited useful lives left (IIRC ex-Qantas 707s were among the last selected) to convert into RIVET JOINT, COBRA BALL, etc. RC-135 aircraft (reportedly because the USAF liked the over-engineered air frame; four engines for a military application; and to keep a degree of commonality with E-3s, KC-135s, and other RC-135 types); I see the USAF passing on 767MAX and instead using either base-KC-46 air frames or second hand 767s as the next common large air frame to serve electronic and reconnaissance missions.

    The 767MAX discussion seems to me more like a sonic cruiser-type diversion from Boeing’s real plans and to help convince Airbus to launch the A330NEO (which they all but have to do at this point to not cede market share to Boeing, but will not advance Airbus material science and will cannibalize A350 sales) and Scott’s chart proves it.

    • – The 787-3 empty weight and costs were about twice as high as an A321
      – An empty 767-300 weighs about 86t, an empty 787-8 about 30%/ 30t more.

      A short range 787/A330/A350 will never look brilliant. It’s for long haul with a full cargo belly.

  13. I don’t think above’s comparison does justice to the 767s capabilities and new engine options. The 767 can fit easily fit 250 seats. If 6 abreast 17 inch seats are acceptable for 737 and 757 for 3000NM, 8 abreast on a 767 is too. 6 Abreast J is common practice with any airlines and superior to 4 abreast on a 737/757. Here an example 333 seat 767-300. 250 seats for 757 type flights are a better assumption.

    The GENX was considered for the KC-767 years ago already.

    Increasing fuel efficiency and seat capasity both by 15% isn’t far fetched technology, but in operation for years now.

  14. Additional 767 efficiencies

    1. Slim/light seats on 8 abreast for higher passenger count
    2. Engine insertions
    3. Courier service subcontract in cargo hold
    4. Cabin sidewall re-contouring for no. 1
    5. Aerodynamic minor modifications

    Special discounts if used for 757 replacement

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